KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 – FORMER winner Ryan Gibbons will be looking to repeat his winning feat in Malaysia when he returns to Malaysia for his second appearance in Asia’s premier stage race, PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2022,  next month.

Since winning the 2017 edition as a neo-pro with Team Dimension Data, the South African national champion, who has accumulated eight career wins thus far, has never looked back.

Gibbons’ past achievement and familiarity with the Malaysian terrain and weather will surely put him among the favourites when the race starts in Kuala Pilah on October 11.

The 28-year-old Gibbons has been included in the six-man UAE Team Emirates WorldTours outfit for the 26th edition of the race to help boost the team’s points in the UCI ranking. The team currently sit in the 3rd spot of the team world ranking, having amassed 11,893 points behind Jumbo Visma and INEOS Grenadiers.

Gibbons is expected to lead the team’s challenge in the Tour, along with Kiwi climber George Bennet for the general classification, the experienced Rui Costa and Juan Sebastien Molano for the points challenge.

With its high reputation in the WorldTours circuit, the UAE Team Emirates, which boasts of having two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar on its roster, are among the 22 teams confirmed for the 8-day race.

PETRONAS LTdL 2022 runs over a challenging route of 1,183 km, starting from Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan on Oct 11 and ends with two back-to-back stages which include the Gunung Raya mountain top finish in Langkawi on October 17.

After a one-year lapse due to the covid pandemic, the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2022 is back to thrill fans and spectators with a line-up of six World Tour teams, four Pro Continental teams, 11 Continental outfits and one national team.

Since its inception in 1996, South African riders have made impact in the Tour, winning four overall titles since 2005. Ryan Cox of Barloworld was first to win the yellow jersey in 2005, followed by David George in 2006, Reinardt van Rensburg (Team Dimension Data) in 2016 and Gibbons in 2017.

Gibbons, a pro since 2017, will be aiming to be the first South African rider to win the LTdL overall title twice. After four seasons with Team Dimension Data, Gibbons raced in his first Tour de France in 2020 with NTT Pro Cycling Team before joining the UAE Team Emirates last year to compete in more major races in Europe.

Adding to the team’s strength, Kiwi experienced rider George Bennet (pic left) will be another leading GC contender in this year’s peloton. Having raced five times in Tour de France, the 32-year-old Bennet, a pro since 2012 who has also raced seven times in Vuelta, is known as two Tadej Pogacar’s key mountain domestique.

Rui Costa, 36, among the oldest riders in the pack, will also be gunning for some great moments in LTdL 2022, which will be his swansong after seven years with Team Emirates. Having raced in nine Tour de France editions with three stage wins under his belt, Costa, a pro since 2007 and the first Portuguese to win the world championship in 2013, will be among the ones to watch.

Apart from UAE Team Emirates, the other WorldTour teams slated for the race are Cofidis (France), Lotto Soudal (Belgium), EF Education-EasyPost (United States), Movistar (Spain) and Astana-Qazaqstan (Kazakhstan).

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of LTdL 2022, Shahaizereen Abdul Hamid said, this year’s Tour will be one of the most interesting and competitive races as some of the WorldTour team teams are scrambling for winning points to avoid relegation from next season’s WorldTour set-up.

“The participation of these top-class teams will make this year’s edition one of the best-ever organised in terms of the quality of participation of the world’s leading teams where it will present world-class competition to local and foreign cycling fans,” he said.

Alpecin-Deceuninck from Belgium, currently the best placed Pro Continental team in the rankings (11th), are expected to mount a serious challenge, followed by regular outfit Drone Harper-Androni Giacattoli from Italy and UNO-X Pro Cycling from Norway.

The UCI Continental Teams will be represented by Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (TSG), Team Sapura Cycling (TSC), Indonesia’s Mula Cycling Team and Roojai Cycling Team, ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast of Australia, China Glory Continental Cycling Team (China), ProTouch (South Africa) and Kuwait Pro Cycling (Kuwait).

Regional teams include Thailand Continental Team (Thailand), Team UKYO (Japan), 7-Eleven Cliqq Air (Philippines) and the Malaysian national team.

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